Almost 10 years ago, I had a dream that was very vivid and very disturbing- but somehow it stuck with me and has been the idea that has embedded itself in my head more deeply than any others.
I was in a band with some buddies- I don't remember who anymore. We were getting ready to do our first gig on The Conan O'Brien show and I was wearing a dress...Bowie style, not Divine.
There was a knock on my dressing room door- it was the guys and they looked pretty sheepish.
"Why the long faces guys? We're about to play in front of a million people!"
"we're kicking you out of the band...we found a new singer and we think that we'll do better with the new guy..."
"What the fuck? Are you serious?"
"Seriously, serious? Like, really, really serious...?"
"yeah, we're really sorry- we want you to be a roadie and hang out with us and stuff."
"Fuck that and fuck you and fuck the new guy...whoever the fuck he is...! Who is he?"
"howard stern. we're replacing you with howard stern."
"I don't know how to feel about this guys."
"he looks really good in a dress. he can actually sing pretty good."
"Fine! I don't care! Do whatever you want! But there's two things that I want!"
"anything man- we feel really bad."
"ONE! I want to meet Howard Stern and TWO! You have to change the name of the band. Jackalbox is mine!"
As the dream went on, the idea of Jackalbox came cleaner in my mind- I explained to Howard Stern (it turned out that the reason he even wanted to be in the band was because he liked the name Jackalbox and he thought I was brilliant and I eventually went on to work on his show and become his best friend...) that I had had a dream about being in Egypt, at a local marketplace with a guide that was working with me. A dust storm kicked up- a big one, very suddenly.
To get out of the sand my guide and I ducked into a tiny shop down an alley. The place was empty except for a very old man, with paper skin and thin hands. He welcomed us into his shop and told us that everything was for sale...everything except for The Jackalbox.
Being the ass that I am I said that all I wanted to buy was The Jackalbox- he told me that I could pay him to use it, but only one time.
My guide, acting as my translator as well, told me what the old man had said and told me we should go and told me that I should not use The Jackalbox- that it was dangerous and it could lead to my doom.
I looked at the box- it was small with ancient carving- dark cherry aged and black in places- it looked solid but ordinary- like something you might find in home decor in your local Target. I asked what it did, how it worked. The old man, smelling a sale told me that all I needed to do was take a small slip of paper, put it in the empty box, shake the box and when I pulled the paper out of the box- written on the paper- would be the one thing that I needed to do in my life to feel peace.
I examined the box- it was empty. Turned it over, shook it, poked it, rubbed it- and deemed that there was no way this could be true. Even less, there was no way that it could be dangerous. I decided that the trick was with the old man himself.
"I know how this works." I said to him
"I do too, sir." He replied. Looking very seriously with a small smile.
"There's some sleight of hand involved- I'll put the paper in and somehow you'll put another piece of paper in- something will be written on the paper in Egyptian that I won't understand and you'll give me some happy answer about being nice to my mother or something..."
"No, sir- the writing on the paper will come out in whatever language that you want it to in your mind. The Box does not tell you anything that you do not know- it just sorts through your mind and finds something that you are ignoring...it may be something very obvious or something that you know...in your heart...but have hidden."
I turned to my guide and asked, "Is he speaking English, now? Are you working with him?"
"He is a demon, we should go."
"OH! Good job Mustafa!" turning to the old man I said I would give it a shot. My translator left me alone. The old man pulled out a small piece of papyrus and handed it to me.
"You hold the box in your left hand. Place the papyrus in the box and close the lid with the right hand. Then shake the box as much as you want. Only you will know when your message is ready. When you are done, take the papyrus out of the box- your future will become clearer."
I did as he told me. I shook the box hard, soft, spun it in circles and whopped a little Native American jig.
When I was done, I was a little guilty, I was making fun of the old man and regardless of whether this was all a trick, it was probably based in some sort of cultural experience passed down from generation to generation.
I reached into the box, pulled out the slip and started to hand it to the old man- still convinced that he would have to interpret the message for me.
The old man snapped his head away from my hand, "NONONO! I cannot see what is written on the paper, sir! Only you can read that- you show no one!"
This was getting good- better than that David Blayne trick when he levitates.
He looked back at me- I smiled wide.
He motioned to my hand, "What, what does the papyrus say? Do you understand it? Is the vision clear?"
I looked at the paper. I was surprised to see that there was writing on it.
I was even more surprised to see that the writing there was in English.
What it said made me not think that I was having fun anymore.
On the paper- in a delicate scrawl said the words, "Kill Arthur"
And yes, they made sense to me.
Based on that dream, I have been searching for my very own real life Jackalbox- something that I can shake up in my life that will show me the road, the path, the way- whatever you want to call it. Sometimes it's a trip to K-Mart and picking up cheap Crayola watercolors and imagining all the cool things I could paint with them- sometimes I stare too long at a piece of plywood at Home Depot and think about what an awesome headboard I can make.
Trouble is- I never do.
I. Never. Do. Any. Thing.
And now here I am- sitting in an Indian casino doing a side gig- a side gig from my corporate douchebag real gig- 37 years old, no creative achievements of any note under my JC Penney belt- I am off of anti depressants for the first time in over 3 years and I want to shake some things up. I want to learn to write again- want to put my creative stuff on display. I want to tell you about about the dumb thing I saw in the grocery store or the profound thought I had on my long drive home.
I don't know yet. But maybe I'll get there and maybe you'll be watching.
So welcome. Welcome to my Jackalbox.
Sorry about the mess.